Feminist criticism defines a literary theory showing how women were portrayed as less valuable than men in literature throughout history. Usually called feminist literary criticism, it studies how early writings condoned the oppression of women because men dominated society. It also explores how women writers were taken less seriously than male authors from a historical perspective.
Going back hundreds of years, women were shown in literature as imperfect when compared to men, according to feminist criticism. Female stereotypes abound in early literary works, and feminist criticism scholars contend these views kept women from reaching equality socially, politically, and economically. In some instances, women were simply viewed as being different from men but not recognized for any contributions to society.
Feminist criticism gender studies typically divide history into three distinct periods. The first era looks at literature from the 1700s through the early 1900s. This is considered the first time women began examining female characters in literature, which were created from a male viewpoint. Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, published in 1929, is studied for its impact on feminist criticism and the obstacles female writers overcame to express their views.
At that time, most women were confined to a house, which became a re-occurring theme in books by female authors of the era. Over time, these writers began developing strong female characters that went against society’s expectations. These early heroines sought independence and followed a quest for knowledge, with literature showing women bucking the system and using their intellect to make personal decisions.
The second wave of feminist criticism arose between the 1960s and late 1970s. The women’s rights movement drew attention to political, economic, and social injustices to the female sex. This era coincided with the civil rights movement that demanded equality for people of color.
During the 1990s, scholars studying feminist criticism actively wrote about the contributions of women to society. Literature included studies of text throughout history that illustrated the debasement of women, especially in works considered classics. The way women were featured in historical works influenced female characters in modern text internationally during this time.